ST. GEORGE – Four families enrolled in a self-help home-building program will finally be breaking ground this week in Toquerville, after their plans to build in the Dixie Springs subdivision of Hurricane were vehemently opposed by local residents.
Eight families originally sought to build in Dixie Springs through a “sweat equity” program administered by Five County Association of Governments, but at a Hurricane City Council meeting in August, residents of Dixie Springs turned out in force to vehemently oppose any “low-income” housing in their neighborhood.
After the City Council meeting at which dozens of residents objected to plans to build the Mutual Self-Help Program homes in Dixie Springs, the group of four families and the program administrator, Doni Pack, began looking for other locations.
Pack said she did not want the negative reaction to become what people thought of the program; and so she did not push the issue either in the media or through federal anti-discrimination laws as enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity office.
“It was terrible, what happened. It was very hard, and we basically had to start over again,” Pack said.
The families in the program started driving around everywhere, Pack said, looking for properties and one of the families actually found the property in Toquerville.
“Although that experience was difficult for various reasons, the families have ended up in a better situation in the end,” Pack said. “The properties in Toquerville are more beautiful, larger, have lovely views, and the existing neighbors are welcoming.”
One program participant put her application in two long years ago, Pack said, another is a decorated veteran with disabilities, and another is a single mother with four children. The delay has been difficult, she said.
“These guys are survivors,” she said.
The program participants have to work 30 hours a week for six months or more, helping build their own homes and the homes of their neighbors in the program.
By contributing the labor for 65 percent of the construction tasks, the families can obtain a low-interest loan provided directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pack said. The interest rate on the loan is 4 percent or lower. Down payment and closing costs are generally included in the loan, she said.
No mortgage payments are due until the houses are completed, and house plans and work responsibility accommodations are available for those with disabilities. The homes are built to Energy Star standards and strict quality requirements, she said.
“I see this program becoming increasingly familiar to locals and expanding to help families everywhere in our five-county area. The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program is a privilege to participate in.”
The four families are breaking ground on Peachtree Drive in Toquerville this week, and a “wall-raising” celebration to lift and secure the first framed wall is set for Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
“The wall-raising will involve all four families raising the first framed wall onto the cement pad,“ Pack said.
The Mutual Self-Help program allows participants to build approximately 65 percent of their home, and the homes of the other families in the program. It allows participants to save money on labor costs, avoid a down payment and also receive a subsidized loan with the USDA’s rural development lending program.
“It’s called mutual self-help, because they all have to help each other build each other’s houses,” program coordinator Doni Pack said. “And no one can move in until they all have their certificates of occupancy, so from start to finish, they help each other build each other’s homes,” she said.
“We need a couple of more families for the next (group of) four that will be building in the same location,” she said.
Some families already qualified for the second group-build are family members of the first group, she said.
“So they are creating a whole neighborhood. You have a very nice healthy neighborhood that is created in the process.”
“Main Street in Ivins is a good example of what the program makes possible. There is a whole block or two that are all houses built through this program,” Pack said.
- For information about Five County AOG housing programs, go here.
- Contact Doni Pack by email, or by calling 435-673-3548.
- USDA Housing and Community Assistance
- Dixie Springs residents in force protest ‘low income’ housing program
- Mutual Self-Help program makes home ownership possible
- Residents protest low-income housing imposed on the Quail Cove development
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